Sun, Mar 14, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Soong's kneeling a planned highlight

BAD TIMINGThe pan-blues' election platform revolves around being able to run Taiwan better than the DPP, but yesterday they were unable to synchronize their watches

By Brian Hsu  /  STAFF REPORTER , IN TAICHUNG

Thousands of supporters of the Lien Chan- James Soong presidential ticket gather on Katagalan Boulevard in Taipei during the pan-blue camp's 313 Rally yesterday.

PHOTO: SEAN CHAO, TAIPEI TIMES

People First Party (PFP) chairman and pan-blue camp vice presidential candidate James Soong (宋楚瑜) and his wife Chen Wan-shui (陳萬水) yesterday brought to a high election fever in Taichung by kneeling down to kiss the ground in the largest rally that the blue camp has held in the central city in the lead-up to the March 20 presidential elections.

Soong's move nearly caused the situation to get out of control, however, as supporters and TV cameramen surged forward. Security personnel had to swiftly intervene to prevent a possible accident.

Soong claimed that over 300,000 people took part in the rally.

After the rally, Soong would not comment on his "kissing the land,"except to say that it had been planned in advance but was only known by top-level blue-camp campaign staff.

The problems Soong's kneeling caused were the result of a failure by the blue camp to synchronize Soong's kneeling down and that of Nationalist (KMT) Chairman Lien Chan (連戰), the blue camp's presidential candidate.

The Taichung rally was one of a number or campaign rallies held simultaneously around the country.

An official with the PFP, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that according to the initial plans, Lien should have been the first to kneel down to kiss the ground, which was to be followed by Soong and those leading rallies elsewhere in the country.

The time set for the synchronized move was at 3:20pm, but due to errors in communication links Soong did not make the move until 3:26pm, a little ahead of Lien in Taipei who was apparently also confused about what caused the glitch.

PFP lawmaker Hwang Yih-jiau (黃義交), Soong's most trusted aide, said he did not know details about the planned synchronized move at yesterday's rallies across the country.

"It has been kept top secret in the blue team. Only a small number of people knew about it. In practice, Soong should not be the only one to kneel down. It would make more sense if all the people around him did the same," Hwang said.

Soong's kneeling down was not beyond the expectations of the green team. President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁), presidential candidate of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), had predicted in a recent rally that Soong or Lien would resort to kneeling down as the presidential election neared.

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